The Life and Activities of the Roman Gladiator Argus

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Born in 29 A.D., Argus was one of three children born to King Pilius and Selene of Nicopolis. However, at the age of 12, a small revolt was organized against the Greeks by Pilius. It was totally crushed, and Pilius and Selene were executed. Argus was captured and sold to Gnaeus Julius Agricola, a wealthy Roman farmer of Stabiae. He and another slave worked in Gnaeus's fields during the summer and as an aide to the cook in the winter.

He did this monotonous labor until the age of 17, when he was assigned the job of pedagogy for Gnaeus' youngest son. Argus was extremely well educated, thanks to his Greek parents. Here the boy was taught simple math and was told stories such as the Odyssey and plays by Sophocles or Aeschylus. However, one fateful day, while walking the son to school, a vicious dog leaped out of an alleyway and bit into the boy's neck. Argus beat off the dog, but it was to no avail. The attack left a gap in the boy's neck, which would not heal. The boy died several days later. Furious that such horrors could happen to his son, Gnaeus blamed Argus for not stopping the attack sooner. Instead of death, Argus was to live out his days as a gladiator, a barbarous warrior, killing others for entertainment or being killed himself.

Though many of the gladiators were considered celebrities, the lives of most were short and unfavorable. Argus, however, was extremely fit and made a good fighter. Though I barely made it through the first contest, the following events became easier and easier. Becoming well known, Argus began to like the life of a gladiator. When not fighting, he was treated with tremendous respect and regarded as superior. Argus was treated as a king and allowed to use public baths and arenas. Rumors were posted that he was a descendant of his namesake, Argus, the all-seeing. Though his life was spared, he was eventually beaten by a newly trained mercenary. Gnaeus then realized he was becoming too old to fight. Rather than free him, Gnaeus decided to put him to work as a trainer for other gladiators. Showing how to fight and kill with accuracy was a skill few knew well.

Seeking new recruits, Gnaeus and Argus traveled to Pompeii. The next several days, earth tremors startled the visitors and made for an apprehensive trip. On what would be his last day, Argus was exploring the side streets of Pompeii and found them to be unusually busy. Dogs were constantly barking, and many birds were fleeing the city. A strange cloud was over Mt. Vesuvius. Strange ash started to fill the streets, which began a widespread panic. People were grabbing whatever possessions they could and running for the port. Argus, confused, started looking for Gnaeus. He finally found him under a fallen beam, bleeding and unconscious. Argus stood by his master's side while the city was being demolished. Eventually, while desperately trying to free his master, he passed out from the inhalation of the ash. He never awoke. This was the fate of over 2,000 people in Pompeii in 79 during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

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The Life and Activities of the Roman Gladiator Argus. (2023, Mar 09). Retrieved May 21, 2024 , from

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